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Half Hollow Hills library to seek $14.5M bond for renovation

The Half Hollow Hills Community Library on Vanderbilt

The Half Hollow Hills Community Library on Vanderbilt Parkway in Dix Hills on Tuesday, July 25, 2017. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

What started as “Band-Aid” renovation proposals to bolster the aging Half Hollow Hills Community Library in Dix Hills is now a multimillion-dollar rebuilding endeavor that, if voters approve it, would rely heavily on taxpayers.

About 20,000 households in the library district, which shares the same boundaries as the Half Hollow Hills school district, would pay a maximum of $60 a year to help fund the $19.2 million project, officials said, adding that the effort would resolve the building’s structural shortcomings and add more meeting and collaborative spaces.

Library board of trustee members set the $14.5 million bond vote for Oct. 3 after approving rebuilding in February. The rest of the money for the project would come from library funds.

“Essentially we’ve been doing a little work on this building for 50 years,” library director Helen Crosson said. “And the library board decided, ‘We’re not going to try and fix this thing. Let’s just go to the community and say we want to build a new library.’ ”

The Dix Hills branch’s interior, with a floor-to-ceiling stone wall, art exhibit and buzzing computer area, doesn’t betray its age at first glance. But the library struggles with structural and technological problems: book stacks supporting the roof; narrow aisles; no insulation; accessibility issues for disabled patrons; temperamental Wi-Fi; and flooding after rain or snowstorms.

“We’re on pins and needles when we hear about rain,” assistant director Charlene Muhr said, adding that classes sometimes have to be canceled because there are “inches of water” in the library on Vanderbilt Parkway.

The library is limited as well by a lack of adjustable space, as about half an acre of book stacks cannot be moved, Crosson said. Muhr added that the building’s five meeting rooms also fail to fully satisfy members’ needs.

“What Half Hollow Hills lacks is a village — we don’t have a downtown, so people use this as a community center for meetings,” Muhr said.

Crosson said she and other officials are working with an architect to create a flexible, multipurpose design that accommodates all ages. The new building would have 30,000 square feet of usable space — compared with 28,000 square feet — with the possibility of book stacks on wheels, more meeting rooms, 10 to 12 additional parking spots and an outdoor space for performances, she said.

Half Hollow Hills’ Melville branch underwent interior renovations in 2009, and will only get smaller-scale work such as bathroom and parking lot upgrades if the bond is approved.

Five public meetings about the proposal are to be held before Oct. 3 for residents to give feedback, Crosson said. The library will need to relocate during construction, she added, listing two defunct elementary schools in the district as possibilities. The targeted library reopening is summer or fall 2020.

Library proponent Diane Lettieri, who lives in Dix Hills, said she has heard continued optimism about the project from library users.

“Overall, it’s very supportive; it’s just that we need them [residents] to come out and vote ‘yes,’ ” said Lettieri, 53.

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